My husband and I are lucky enough to live with walking distance of many restaurants. For those of you familiar with Los Angeles, you know that the term “walking distance” is rare, so we like to take advantage of our near-by establishments. Three of these are, amazingly, sushi restaurants. I have decided to call them The Good, The Bad, and The Trendy. Read on to see where Taiko fits.
Sobadokoro Taiko (aka Taiko) is one of the few Japanese restaurants that does not specialize solely in sushi, maybe to a fault (more on this later). It is a light, bright space, with very little in terms of decor. One of the few wall decorations is what appears to be a three-part montage on mud. But, we don’t go there for the atmosphere, we go there for the sake and beer. Yup, I said it. Hey, it’s within walking distance, remember?
Beware: If you go between the hours of six and eight, be prepared to dine amongst families with young children, and swarms of under-dressed teeny boppers. This is in part due to the fact that it’s a reasonably priced Japanese restaurant, and in part due to the fact that you are in Southern California. My husband jokingly refers to Taiko as the “Chuck E Cheese of Sushi”, which is great if you want to introduce your three-year-old to his first toro roll, or if you are a thirteen year old with your daddy’s gold card. But for my husband and me, we prefer to show up at 8:15 and close the place down.
As I said earlier, my husband and I go to Taiko often. We originally considered it a sushi restaurant, blatantly ignoring everyone else ordering off of the entree portion of the menu. It’s not that we ever ended up hospitalized, or anything remotely close to that. It’s just that the sushi there is not great. One thing that I require when I eat raw fish: it should be great. We narrowed down our menu selections each time, but it wasn’t until we had a crunchy spicy tuna roll, where there should have been no crunch, that we decided we were done eating the raw fish there. At this point you must have figured out Taiko is “The Bad” of the three Brentwood sushi establishments. But please, read on, it’s not all bad….
Despite of what I wrote above, there are some great things to order from Taiko. Again, they have an extensive sake, wine, and beer list. Their sake ranges greatly in price, but their house offering, appropriately named Taiko, is reasonable at $6 for a small and $11 for a large. They also have the all-important native beers: Sapporo, Kirin, and Asahi. My husband, always the connoisseur, makes his decision amongst the three depending upon his mood of the night.
To start our night, we always begin with their miso soup, which is great because it has nothing fancy going on. They also have one of the best sunomo salads I have ever had: lot’s of thinly sliced cucumbers and a pile of seaweed, in a delicate rice vinegar dressing, topped with toasted sesame seeds, Japanese radish sprouts, and a lemon wedge. Other great starters include the spinach gomai and the fried tufo with bonito flakes.
They also have a few creative items that are very good - there is the tuna tempura with curry and green tea salts, the spicy rock shrimp salad with mushrooms, and a multitude of daily specials.
We are also fond of their tempura selection, which includes pumpkin tempura - one of my favorites. The one roll that we still order is the shrimp tempura roll - it’s fantastic with asparagus.
Also, upon request they will substitute soy paper for seaweed for a small charge per roll. This is a must for my husband, so it’s important for us to know which restaurants are able to do this.
We often round out our meal with one of their large bowls of udon or soba noddles. These are very popular here, and most people can be seen slurping down one of the many varieties. You can get them with meat, fish, or even vegetable tempura and kill two birds with one stone. These are definitely large enough to share, and they make the perfect “carb” to balance things out.
Before going to Taiko so many times, I would have never thought I would go to a Japanese restaurant and not order sushi. However, this is still one of our favorite restaurants - we always have great conversation, and now that we know what to order, we also always have great food.
Taiko is in Brentwood at Barrington and San Vicente: 11677 San Vicente Blvd Ste 302, Los Angeles, CA 90049
Phone: (310) 207-7782